Modern civilisation has not dulled humankind’s bloodlust or reduced violence, but living in a large, organised society increases the likelihood of surviving a war, scientists say.
While larger, modern-day societies may have a larger number of soldiers or combatants who die, they represent a smaller percentage of the total population, researchers said.
People who live in modern-day nations are not less violent than their ancestors or people who currently live in small-scale hunting, gathering and horticultural societies.
“Rather than being more violent, people who live in small-scale societies are more vulnerable to a significant portion of their community being killed in warfare than those living in states because, as the old saying goes, ‘there is safety in numbers’,” said Dean Falk, from the Washington University Medical School in the US.
“We recognise, of course, that people living in all types of societies have the potential not only for violence, but also for peace,” said Falk.
The study, published in the journal Current Anthropology, found that war deaths for both small-scale and more modern state societies escalate upward with increasing population sizes.
Part of that is because of the innovations in weapons and military strategies associated with modern life. Instead of stone axes, there are now fighter planes and more sophisticated weaponry.
The findings challenge the idea that as nations and modern societies develop, there is a reduction in violence and war deaths, Falk said.
In this study, researchers analysed data on population sizes and death from intergroup conflicts in 11 chimpanzee communities, 24 human non-states, 19 countries that fought in World War I and 22 countries that fought in World War II.
“They included chimpanzees because they attack and kill individuals in other groups,” Falk said.
The found that chimpanzees on a whole were less violent than humans, which researchers believe suggests that humans developed more severe forms of warfare compared to chimps. However,